Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Where am I now?

WHERE AM I NOW? sang Christian as he awakened at the break of day.

I'm a little ahead of myself. Christian now welcomed in to Palace Beautiful or House Beautiful is further questioned by Charity concerning his family. To paraphrase she asks him whether he has a family, and why didn't he bring them along. At which, Christian wept saying he would willingly have done so but they wouldn't.

Charity didn't stop there, she asking further if he didn't warn them of the danger of staying behind. Christian did warn them but they only mocked.

So Charity asks again if he did pray for God to bless his counsel to them.

And this gave me pause, it is not enough to give counsel to your children and your wife - but did your PRAY for that counsel to be blessed of God and effective.

Which Christian answers that he did pray and prayed "with much affection."

Charity pushes on asking again if he told his family of his own sorrow and fears concerning the coming destruction - which she said he must have seen these things well-enough in himself. Christian said yes: "Over and over and over," in fact they could not just hear of the fears but see them in his very countenance and in his tears.

Then going even deeper Charity asks a very probing question: "But did you not, with your vain life, damp all that you, by words, used by way of persuasion to bring them away with you?"

I'm thinking now that this conversation between Charity and Christian is very probing indeed within my own conscience. What about my relatives, my friends, my family? Do they see such concern in my countenance? Do I over and over and over tell them of what I have seen laying ahead in the future? And did I pray all my words and counsel towards them would be blessed of God. Are my children fittingly prepared - did I consider the eternal seriousness of this matter as Charity is seeking to learn from her trying of Christian? AND ESPECIALLY is my vain life throwing water on all the words I use to persuade? Is my life and profession consistent with one another?

But finally lest we lay too much upon ourselves, both Christian and Charity's final words to Christian on this matter are a comfort:

Indeed, I cannot commend my life, for I am conscious to myself of many failings therein. I know also, that a man, by his conversation, may soon overthrow what, by argument or persuasion, he doth labor to fasten upon others for their good. Yet this I can say, I was very wary of giving them occasion, by any unseemly action, to make them averse to going on pilgrimage. Yea, for this very thing, they would tell me I was too precise, and that I denied myself of things (for their sakes) in which they saw no evil. Nay, I think I may say, that if what they saw in me did hinder them, it was my great tenderness in sinning against God, or of doing any wrong to my neighbor.

Charity: Indeed, Cain hated his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous, 1 John, 3:12; and if thy wife and children have been offended with thee for this, they thereby show themselves to be implacable to good; thou hast delivered thy soul from their blood. Ezek. 3:19.

So they ate their supper, and so they talked together into the night enjoying that rich fellowship that only belongs to those who are true brothers and sisters in Christ. Their subject was gospel-centered, Christ-Centered: Who he was and what he has done; And why he did what he did; And why he built this Palace Beautiful.

"This house was built by the Lord of the hill, and he built it for the relief and security of pilgrims."

"Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; this house was built by the Lord of the hill on purpose to entertain such pilgrims in. "

And so he retired for the night:
"The name of the chamber was Peace, where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang, “Where am I now? "

Here as my three little girls were reading, 10 yr Old, following our previous example was inspired to insist that her 13 yr old currently-reading-out-load-to-the-rest-of-us-sister should sing this song not read it. Failing in this effort, 10 yr old proceeded to sing the song herself. And since she made such a good effort I insisted the rest of us should give it go as well. So alternately taking our turns to sing, my own thoughts reflected back upon Christian's progress thus far:

Which thoughts were mainly this, that up to this point Christian had experienced a fairly solitary journey. Musing and reflecting I recalled that at first he had a book, which reading of it brought great fear upon him as well as a heavy burden upon his back. Evangelist exhorts him to flee the wrath to come and run for yonder bright shining light - keeping it always in his eye. As he ran, in order not to hear the "come back's" of those calling after him, Christian plugged his ears and cried out, "Life, Life, Eternal Life." Pliable and Obstinate meet up with him, but not for good reasons. Though Pliable accompanies Christian a ways - he is not good company and Christian taking his eye momentarily off the light they both fall into the slough of despond. Christian cries for help and help comes. Once again on his way but without Pliable he meets Worldly Wiseman who almost sends him to his death. And with Christian trembling next to Mount Sinai, Evangelist once again points him to yonder wicket gate and bright shining light. Christian goes straight for it, and upon arriving and knocking, Goodwill opens and grabs Christian with a great yank in the door - while we hear the thud, thud, thud of Beezelbub's arrows seeking his life. Christian spends a great deal of time in the Interpreter's House, I'm sure gaining a great deal that will help him on his way. Which finally he resumes alone coming to the cross, receiving great gifts from the shining ones. Alone he goes on headed for the Celetial City, meeting first Simple, Sloth and Presumptions then later with Formalist and Hypocrisy. None of these coming to any good end. Then up Hill Difficulty, Christian sleeping in the Arbor, losing the roll, retracing his steps back down to Arbor, finding the roll and then up the Hill Difficulty a second time. But now night overcomes him and he must face the lions in darkness. But Porter offers good help and advice and he is met at Palace Beautiful. Examined by Porter and then Discretion and Piety and Prudence Christian is welcomed in as one blessed of the Lord. A lonely journey thus far, but now welcomed into the Local Church, Christian resides in that place made for the relief and security of Pilgrim's. SWEET FELLOWSHIP, BLESSED COMPANIONSHIP, Precious Help, from Precious Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Not so alone as he was before. Finally Sleeping in the CHAMBER OF PEACE.

How can he not sing?

“Where am I now? Is this the love and care

Of Jesus, for the men that pilgrims are,

Thus to provide that I should be forgiven,

And dwell already the next door to heaven!”

When the local church is this as described in Bunyan's wonderful book, how can he not sing?

Where am I now? I'm here in the body with brothers who care for me, under the instruction of the word which will bring Relief and Security. O' gracious God who has provided such a PORTER as this! And such a Palace as This! This is the place of the LOVE AND CARE OF JESUS. That has been made for MEN who are PILGRIMS --- BELIEVERS.



And so Sunday morning, with these thoughts still fresh in my own mind, gratitude and praise filled my heart and what a worship I had. This is the Next Door to Heaven!!!!

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

I love the poem that christian sings when he gets out of bed